Date of Completion

Spring 5-9-2010

Thesis Advisor(s)

Matthew Singer

Honors Major

Political Science


Political Science


There is an ongoing mission in Afghanistan; a mission driven by external political forces. At its core this mission hopes to establish peace, to protect the populace, and to install democracy. Each of these goals has remained just that, a goal, for the past eight years as the American and international mission in Afghanistan has enjoyed varied levels of commitment. Currently, the stagnant progress in Afghanistan has led the international community to become increasingly concerned about the viability of a future Afghan state. Most of these questions take root in the question over whether or not an Afghan state can function without the auspices of international terrorism. Inevitably, the normative question of what exactly that government should be arises from this base concern. In formulating a response to this question, the consensus of western society has been to install representative democracy. This answer has been a recurring theme in the post Cold War era as states such as Bosnia and Somalia bear witness to the ill effects of external democratic imposition.

I hypothesize that the current mold of externally driven state-building is unlikely to result in what western actors seek it to establish: representative democracy. By primarily examining the current situation in Afghanistan, I claim that external installation of representative democracy is modally flawed in that its process mandates choice. Representative democracy by definition constitutes a government reflective of its people, or electorate. Thus, freedom of choice is necessary for a functional representative democracy. From this, one can deduce that because an essential function of democracy is choice, its implementation lies with the presence of choice. State-building is an imposition that eliminates that necessary ingredient. The two stand as polar opposites that cannot effectively collaborate.

Security, governing capacity, and development have all been targeted as measurements of success in Afghanistan. The three factors are generally seen as mutually constitutive; so improved security is seen as improving governing capacity. Thus, the recent resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and a deteriorating security environment moving forward has demonstrated the inability of the Afghan government to govern. The primary reason for the Afghan government’s deficiencies is its lack of legitimacy among its constituency. Even the use of the term ‘constituency’ must be qualified because the Afghan government has often oscillated between serving the people within its territorial borders and the international community. The existence of the Afghan state is so dependent on foreign aid and intervention that it has lost policy-making and enforcing power. This is evident by the inability of Afghanistan to engage in basic sovereign state activities as maintaining a national budget, conducting elections, providing for its own national security, and deterring criminality. The Afghan state is nothing more than a shell of a government, and indicative of the failings that external state-building has with establishing democracy.